The Indianapolis Colts overhauled the majority of the coaching staff this offseason. One of their most important hires, Joe Philbin, says he’s part coach and teacher, and with so many first year linemen the Colts will need the latter quite a bit.
No coaching hire as been scrutinized in Indianapolis as much as Joe Philbin. He is being tasked with solving the offensive line woes that have plagued the Colts for four years and contributed to Andrew Luck missing nine games last season. To help Philbin complete his task, the Colts used four draft picks on offensive linemen and have another half dozen undrafted free agents to throw at the problem as well.
We’ve looked at what kind of difference Philbin can make along the offensive line. While with the Packers, Philbin worked with two of the best quarterbacks in history (Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers) which certainly helped improve his results.
Philbin started his coaching career along the offensive line. Even at the NFL level, he sees himself as equal parts coach and teacher. Speaking to Stephen Holder at the Indy Star, Philbin explained his approach to the position.
“My dad was the best Little League baseball coach in the history of Longmeadow, Mass. And my mother was a teacher by trade,” Philbin said. “That was what she did before she had six kids. So, teaching was a little bit in the blood.
“I just love the teaching aspect of it, seeing if we can go from A to B, just the day-to-day process. I don’t believe that I have any special magic or that the game has any special magic. It’s just a gradual process of improvement, development and loving what you’re doing.”
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The Colts have a lot of young linemen, not just from this year’s draft, but also from previous years. Jack Mewhort, who is turning into a great guard, is heading into just his third season in the NFL as is now backup center/guard Jonotthan Harrison. Hugh Thornton is heading into his fourth year. That leaves Joe Reitz as the wily veteran with eight years experience and Anthony Castonzo at a distant second with five years in the league.
There is plenty that Philbin can teach these young players, but he admits that it has been quite some time since he was focused solely on the offensive line. He’s spent the past decade as either an offensive coordinator or head coach, with varying degrees of success.
“I told the guys, the reality is, I haven’t been an offensive line coach in the NFL in 10 years,” Philbin said. “That’s a long time. I’ve been a coordinator and had another job. So, I’m really looking forward to this. But there’s some rust on my wheels that I have to get off. But it seems like a real quality group. And you can help people if they want to be great. If they don’t, then it’s hard. The measure of the job I’m going to do here is really going to be on the film.”
“I’ve coached at almost every level of football,” said Philbin, 54. “I think who you’re with and interacting with on a daily basis is much more important — especially when you get to the stage that I’m at — than what your job title says it is.”
After a humbling experience in Miami as head coach, Philbin seems to relish a challenge that will be a singular focus. He doesn’t have to worry about game planning or match-ups. All of his energy will be put towards developing the line and keeping Luck upright.
While the line has been a problem the past few years, Philbin will have a lot to work with in 2016. There is a lot of young, unproven talent at every spot on the line that he’ll be able to develop. While this unit won’t be the team’s strongest, it already looks better than it did in 2015.
A moderate improvement to the line will go a longways towards a more balanced offense this season. Keeping Luck upright and healthy, and the Colts will be contenders once again.